Consent for data sharing

Informed consent is an ethical requirement for most research and must be considered and implemented throughout the research lifecycle, from planning to publication to sharing.

Failure to properly address issues of consent may restrict the opportunities for initial use of data, the publishing of your results and the sharing of the data.


Whether informed consent is obtained in writing through a detailed consent form, by means of signing an informative statement, or verbally, depends on the nature of the research, the kind of data gathered, the data format and how the data will be used.


More solid legal ground, e.g. participant agrees to disclose personal information

Often required by Ethics Committees

Offers more protection for researcher

Not possible for some cases: illiteracy, infirm participants, participants wary of formal documentation (illegal activities, refugees) informal research setting


Can be difficult to make all issues clear verbally

Possibly greater risks for researcher

Best if recorded (audio or video)

For detailed interviews or research where personal, sensitive or confidential data are gathered, the use of written consent forms is recommended to ensure compliance with ethical requirements and the Data Protection Act. 

Written consent should be gained wherever possible to ensure that information is being collected and provided in a consistent and uniform way. It may also serve to protect both researchers and participants should any form of dispute arise.

Some guidelines and certain Research Ethics Committees, Research Governance boards or other bodies make statements indicating (or strongly implying) that written consent is required or mandatory. This is not the case in the UK. While we advocate the use of written forms, there are cases where it is not appropriate and flexibility in evaluating projects on their individual merits is essential.

Informing participants

Back to top